Aging adults with Parkinson’s disease may experience what’s referred to as autonomic dysfunctions, meaning they have difficulty swallowing and efficiently completing the digestive process. These are among the most commonly overlooked symptoms of Parkinson’s. It’s important for family caregivers to be aware of these types of problems so they can ensure comfort and high-quality care for their loved ones with the disease. Common gastrointestinal problems associated with Parkinson’s may include the following.
ConstipationConstipation is one of the most common gastrointestinal symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease. This symptom generally begins in the early stages of the disease. In some cases, constipation becomes an issue before the motor symptoms are diagnosed. Problems with the autonomic nervous system caused by the progression of Parkinson’s disease may result in difficulty having a bowel movement. Parkinson’s can also cause the intestinal tract to become less efficient, which can create a “blocked” feeling. Possible solutions include:
- Increasing fiber intake
- Drinking more water
- Getting regular exercise (with doctor approval)
Urinary ProblemsMuscles affecting the urinary tract system may become weaker as Parkinson’s disease advances. The result may be having difficulty either urinating or holding the bladder before making it to the bathroom (urinary incontinence). Certain medications may be able to correct the problem. In some cases, older adults are embarrassed about the problem and don’t share it with their family members. If this is the case with your loved one, it may be helpful to bring in a professional caregiver to assist your loved one with personal care activities such as addressing incontinence, bathing, and dressing.
Bowel IrritabilitySome people with Parkinson’s may experience the sensation of having to go to the bathroom even when it’s not biologically necessary. Issues with the autonomic nervous system can also cause elderly people to have difficulty judging when to get up and go to the bathroom.
Difficulty EatingAging adults with Parkinson’s may experience difficulty chewing and swallowing, increasing the risk of choking. Food that’s not chewed properly can also make the digestive system work harder than it normally does, sometimes resulting in difficulty moving bowels. Caring for a loved one with Parkinson’s can be extremely challenging, and a compassionate professional caregiver can be a wonderful source of support. If you’re the primary caregiver for a senior family member and you need respite care, Waterloo, IA, Home Care Assistance is here to help. Our respite caregivers are trained to assist older adults with a wide variety of everyday tasks, including meal prep, physical activity, and personal hygiene. We also provide 24-hour care and specialized care for seniors with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Parkinson’s.
Getting Help for Your Loved OneParkinson’s disease is unique in that the symptoms of this condition don’t necessarily appear in a certain order. It’s also entirely possible for gastrointestinal problems to appear with little or no warning. For this reason, it’s important for family caregivers to carefully monitor their loved ones’ daily functioning to look for signs of digestive issues that need to be addressed. It may also be time for your loved one to see the doctor when:
- Significant weight loss occurs with no clear explanation
- Constipation suddenly becomes an issue (and it never was before)
- Blood appears in the stool
- Severe pain is experienced with bowel movements